SkyCity top pick to run Queenstown centre

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 07:51 28/02/2013

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The SkyCity casino group is the preferred operator for a planned Queenstown $40 million-plus convention centre.

Submissions for a consortium to pitch development proposals have been kept under strict wraps by the Queenstown Lakes District Council since the council received them in early December.

Since then an evaluation panel has worked through the proposals. Yesterday the council announced it had accepted the recommendation of the panel to work with a partnership between Ngai Tahu Property Ltd and Morrison & Co to develop the centre.

Included in the proposal's project team are convention centre architects, Populous, project management firm, RCP, Queenstown-based construction company Naylor Love, and architects Fearon Hay. The consortium's preferred operator is SkyCity.

Queenstown District Mayor Vanessa van Uden said further work and consultation needed to happen before the project could be considered a reality but agreed the proposal had incredible promise.

"With commercially astute investors, architects who have had involvement with everything from Wembley and Eden Park to the new $1 billion Darling Harbour Convention Centre; and local planners and contractors, this pretty much amounts to the 'dream team' for Queenstown," van Uden said.

Ngai Tahu has a long track record of astute business investments, mainly in the tourism industry in the Queenstown area, while Morrison and Co manages $176 million sovereign wealth fund to generate money for the New Zealand superannuation fund.

SkyCity operates monopoly casinos in Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown and Australia's Adelaide and Darwin.

If the centre reaches fruition the council will be involved only as a landlord, and will not have a hand in the day-to- day running of conventions.

"It is not the intention that council would be involved in either the ownership or operation of a Convention Centre, which is clearly not core council business."

Van Uden stressed that there were still a number of issues which had to be resolved before the council could formally commit to the project. Central to this was the need to bring the community, and in particular the business community, into the loop.

"The community will want to understand what this means for them."

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- The Southland Times

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